Brighton and Hove Albion 3 Newcastle United 1
- Stuart Attwell
Evan Ferguson's hat-trick condemned Newcastle United to defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday evening.
The teenager broke the deadlock before the break before whipping home a stylish second after the break and sealing his treble with a deflected third which wrongfooted Nick Pope having taken a touch off Fabian Schär.
Substitute Callum Wilson pulled a goal back in stoppage time, but it was too little, too late for Eddie Howe's men, whose four-game unbeaten run against the Seagulls ended on the south coast.
United started well with a couple of openings falling to Alexander Isak but then had to weather a Brighton storm, with Solly March particularly threatening. The winger blasted over and forced Pope to turn his deflected cross round the post as the hosts dominated possession.
One of the Magpies' widemen, Miguel Almirón, was next to attempt to register an opener, bursting into the box on the right before seeing his low cross take a hefty touch off a defender and almost creep into the net, but Bart Verbruggen reacted quickly to get down and nudge the ball past the upright for a corner.
Real, clear-cut chances were few and far between in a tight first half, and the opening goal - which came just before the half-hour mark - came through an uncharacteristic error from stopper Pope. His poor clearance was picked up by Pervis Estupiñán and he fed Kaoru Mitoma. His low effort was well kept out by Pope but United couldn't clear their lines and when the Magpies' goalkeeper spilled Billy Gilmour's fierce drive, Ferguson pounced to roll home from close range.
Howe - whose side almost levelled immediately when Joelinton fired just wide - introduced Wilson, Sean Longstaff and Elliot Anderson shortly after the restart in a bid to reconfigure his team's attacking threat, and the switches lifted the visitors, who began to push forward with more purpose.
But with 25 minutes remaining, Ferguson's second of the evening dealt a huge blow to United's hopes of taking something from the contest. The Republic of Ireland frontman was afforded space 25 yards from goal and took full advantage, bending a terrific shot beyond the reach of Pope and into the bottom right-hand corner.
Anderson's cutback then found Anthony Gordon but after he scuffed his shot wide, Brighton sealed the points. It was Ferguson again, claiming his first career hat-trick after Mitoma fed him and he took aim from the edge of the box. His strike took a big deflection off Schär and bounced beyond the helpless Pope and, despite Wilson's stoppage time consolation, this was an evening to forget for Newcastle.